Voters Shape the Future
First the bad news
We have two huge problems in this country. Both have to do with the most fundamental aspect of democracy: voting. Those who WANT to vote are prevented from doing so while those who CAN vote simply don’t. These are complex issues that won’t be solved easily or quickly, especially when one of our two political parties are at best unmotivated to solve it, and at worst directly involved in its perpetuation in order to tip the scales in their favor. That’s the bad news. The good news is that we have the tools to fix it and win back our democracy.
We have a long, ugly history of voter suppression. Voter suppression is essentially any tactics used to deny the right to vote to someone who would otherwise be eligible. In the past, this goal was accomplished through poll taxes and literacy tests. Now it is done with more stealth and on a much larger scale. The three primary methods we see today are voter purges from registered voter rolls, intentionally burdensome voter laws (such as voter ID laws), and outright voter intimidation which occurs through the dissemination of false (and often threatening) election information sent out through flyers, robocalls, the internet and through social media.
The second issue is that people who are eligible and able to vote simply aren’t. Because everything important is complicated, this issue can be broken down into two categories: people who are not registering to vote and registered voters never showing up on Election Day. In 2012, 66 million voters chose President Obama, 61 million voted for Governor Romney, and 82 million eligible people did not vote at all. In 2016, Trump won by winning 107,000 deciding votes in three key states. In 2012, 1 out of 4 eligible citizens, or approximately 51 million people, were not registered to vote, according to the Pew Research Center. There is absolutely zero doubt that non-voters matter and they overwhelmingly matter to democrats. As the current numbers suggest, the potential for increasing participation by increasing registration is huge. The rate of voter turnout in 2012 was only 62 percent among all eligible citizens, but the rate among people actually registered to vote was 87 percent.
The data on this is clear: when someone is registered to vote s/he is more likely to actually vote across all demographics.
We know how a handful of votes can change an election, perhaps more acutely since the morning of November 9, 2016. Trump won Michigan by less than 12,000 votes and Wisconsin by about 27,000. This would be a good time to note that in Virginia “a stunning 41,637 names were “canceled” from voter rolls, most of them just before Election Day” due to Crosscheck. When one party – cough Republicans – have their fingers on the scale it isn’t just suppression of individuals, it is the silencing of the other party in its entirety.
Yet all is not lost.
Democrats have their own weapon to bring to this fight: sheer numbers. For the first time since the Baby Boomers came of age, another generation (millennials) outnumber them and minority groups are quickly becoming the majority. If we can get these underrepresented groups out and registered the data shows us they are likely to vote, and more importantly they are likely to vote Democratic. Right now, numbers are the Democrats’ only weapon because until we start controlling state legislatures and governors’ mansions we have little to no say in a state’s voter laws or gerrymandering of districts. While those issues are supremely important to sustained viability, right here and right now we all can do three things that can change elections:
- Volunteer – or better yet organize – voter registration drives. These events are what matters. This is where the ‘win’ is.
- Talk to everyone you know and ask them if they are registered or if they have updated their voter registration information. Then ask them to ask their friends and family the same question.
- Contact your state legislatures and find out if your state has automatic voter registration (currently 10 states do!) and if they don’t get involved with those efforts.
Together We Will register millions of new voters and they will vote. Together We Will defeat laws and practices that suppress the vote and diminish our voice. Together We Will take back our democracy!